10 May—11 May 2002
The journey from Mount Isa to Tennant Creek is over 650 km. This was the longest drive we planned to complete in one stretch. Susie and I swapped the driver role every two hours, and this made it manageable.
We checked out both caravan parks at Tennant Creek, and settled for the newer park on the road into town. We were fortunate to have arrived on an evening when Jimmy Hooker gave one of his performances. He was a local bushman who recited his poetry and offered samples of bush tucker at the price of a gold coin donation per head. The bush tucker included kangaroo tail stew cooked in a camp oven. At his entertaining fireside performance, Ruby recited a poem she had written at school about the Chinese on the goldfields. This was received well, since Jimmy was a gold prospector and Tennant Creek was formerly a gold rush town. This enjoyable interlude cost us all of $5 per head. I also bought a CD for the kids, with recordings of Jimmy reciting his poems.
Jimmy offered to take tourists out the following day on a tour of his home at “Gumtree 69” on the outskirts of town to see some of the local bush foods. We jumped at the chance. So the next morning we packed up, left trailer in the caravan park, and drove out to meet him. As luck would have it, we were the only people on the tour!
Jimmy showed us local plants that you could eat or simply gain moisture from. These included bush bananas, mistletoe (also know as ‘snot berry’ due to its odd texture) and various edible leaves.
We drove on a bit further to his humpy and sampled bush coconuts and various other delights. Ruby and Clare got on famously with him.
We were late leaving Tennant Creek because Susan and I dropped into the local Aboriginal arts and crafts shop and were very taken by a particular painting—a gorgeous Western Desert water dreaming that seemed to leap off the wall of the gallery. We negotiated a special discount, as it was Susan’s 40th birthday. I expect it will cost us a packet to post the thing home.